DAR Sports: NBA Free Agency 2018

By @TrueGodImmortal

The NBA is the greatest organization in sports. The league has given us top flight entertainment over the last few years, as we've witnessed the start of a new dynasty, amazing offensive play from the proclaimed best player in the world, triple double records broken, three point records broken, and probably the most peculiar of them all, NBA free agency bringing earth shattering moves. Over the last few years, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul have both taken deals as free agents that would impact the NBA extremely. During the free agency period those last few years, trades were made to bring Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, and others to new destinations. Now, as it stands, there is a huge deal that was just announced that could change the landscape of the NBA forever.

Javale McGee to the Los Angeles Lakers. 

Okay, so that's not the actual deal, but in reality, Javale leaving the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors was a shock to many, as it seemed that Javale had found a home with the current dynasty and the Warriors seemed interested in bringing him back, so why would Javale take the vet minimum to go play in LA? Well, perhaps it was the return of Kentavious Caldwell Pope to the Lakers roster that prompted his move? The opportunity to play with Lonzo Ball and wear Big Baller Brand gear? Or maybe it was to set up a new interesting duo with Lance Stephenson? Or the ball handling and passing of Rajon Rondo, but no shooting? While it is probably a no to all of those questions, the biggest reason for his signing to the Lakers is the new acquisition of LeBron James, which is hilarious in some way. Perhaps Javale signed the one year deal so that he could experience playing with LeBron once, which is somewhat understandable since Bron is one of the greatest to play the game, but there is a lot to be said about this entire move and what comes with it. There are rumors the Lakers are trying to trade for Kawhi Leonard, who is an uncertain player at the moment, strictly for the fact that we don't know 100% of the information on his health. Whatever the case may be, the Lakers have pulled off the biggest free agency signing since Kevin Durant went to the Golden State Warriors and this carries so much weight to it that I'll come back to this signing in just a minute. Let's take a brief look at a few other notable signings so far.

The most intriguing free agent signings stemmed from Paul George staying with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chris Paul staying with the Houston Rockets. For both men, questions would arise with these deals, but for different reasons. For George, his decision to stay in OKC seemed to be one out of loyalty to his new friendship with Russell Westbrook, but also one that might allow them to see the potential they have together. At times, the Thunder looked like a true contender in the NBA, while other times, they looked like a team who could barely make the playoffs. That inconsistency could show itself to be a detriment or not be an issue at all, but regardless, Paul George is staying in Oklahoma City for at least the next 3 years, with a chance to stay for four more years at least. The deal, a 4 year deal worth 137 million was huge for George, and even bigger for OKC, who lost Kevin Durant just two years ago. Sure, Carmelo just opted in, but that isn't important. For now, the Thunder have the chance to be a slight force in the West and with Andre Roberson back healthy and the addition of Nerlens Noel, maybe this team can be even better than last season. If they are going to be better than last year, a big reason for that is going to clearly be Paul George.

For Chris Paul, he fully believes in his mind that the Rockets are right there with the Warriors in terms of how they play and can beat them in a 7 game series. While this is plausible due to the fact that the Rockets had a 3-2 series lead over the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, there are a few other things to recognize about this that I'm sure most Rockets fans will ignore. The truth is however, the Rockets are a contender and Paul staying with them is a huge boost for the confidence of the team, but also a slight problem for their chances of getting much better in free agency. Both James Harden and Chris Paul are signed to max deals, but CP3 will make over 40 million dollars in the last two years of his deals, at ages 36 and 37. Harden will make upwards of 40 million as well. If Clint Capela gets a max deal or close to one to stay with the Rockets, their money situation will definitely be an issue for them in trying to bridge the gap on the Warriors. The loss of Trevor Ariza to the Phoenix Suns was a tough one, and as their best wing defender, it is very possible that the Rockets and their defense suffer. Without Ariza, the defense will rely more on Capela and PJ Tucker, but those two have their own limitations, which could present a challenge going forward. Still, I think signing Chris Paul back was clearly the right move for the Rockets, but the reality is, his deal does take a little bit of the flexibility for them to get better as the time passes by. While the Rockets are making Chris Paul an even richer man, the defending champions have yet to make a move. YET.

The truth about the lack of activity from the Golden State Warriors as of this writing says a lot about how they're constructed and a bit more about their arrogance being a slight issue. With no free agency deals announced and the loss of Javale being the first domino to drop, could the Warriors be in trouble? While some might say yes, the truth is they probably are even better off now than they were last season. Last season was tough, as the Warriors were sleepwalking through the regular season and faced a number of random injuries that definitely affected their record and perception of them around the league. With the Warriors only winning 58 games, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green missing time for injuries, Kevin Durant missing time for injuries along with a slightly weird aura around him as the season wore on, and of course Steph Curry only playing 51 games this season, many people believed the Golden Dynasty was coming to an end just as soon as it started. That couldn't be further from the truth. If you take away a number of the injuries and have the Warriors fully healthy, we are probably looking at another 60 win, maybe even 65 win season for the Dubs, but after a grueling run these last four years, their focus was the playoffs, and as you see, it paid off well. For free agency, it remains to be seen what the Warriors have in mind, but the rumors are buzzing. While the Warriors struck out on acquiring Trevor Ariza to be a part of their team, as of this writing, they have some interest in Avery Bradley, Kyle O'Quinn, Jamal Crawford, and possibly Tyreke Evans, who would all be formidable pieces in the Golden State system. Dwight Howard was another name floating around, but it remains to be seen if he would fit well with them. Regardless, the Warriors are the reigning and defending World Champions, and their free agency moves are pivotal to their future. Pieces like Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook, and perhaps Jacob Evans will all play pivotal roles for the Warriors getting younger and staying athletic, but the truth is, they need better fits and even more offense and defense to keep them at the top of the NBA for the next few years because their stars are in their prime. Who do the Warriors end up signing going forward? That remains to be seen. 

There have been a few unimportant deals that have been made for the most part, none of which move the needle of course. The trade for Austin Rivers with Marcin Gortat going to the Clippers was a hilarious one, and none of us know the effect of what DeAndre Jordan signing his one year deal with the Mavericks will be. Those signings and trades are very minimal, much like the Doug McDermott to Indiana deal that nets him 22 million over three years, and although the Aaron Gordon deal for 4 years and 84 million is a big deal for him, are the Orlando Magic anything remotely close to contenders? I think not. J.J. Redick is staying with the 76ers on another one year deal, Elfrid Payton signs with the Pelicans, Mario Hezonja is a Knick, Glenn Robinson III is a Piston, the Raptors have VanVleet returning, and the Cavs have made Kevin Love available for trade. This is what free agency is all about, but aside from one team making moves, it has been rather uneventful. So, the question is, with the Lakers being the team to watch, how will they fare?

All of these moves don't bring the Lakers any closer to being the team to defeat Golden State, and I'm not 100% sure they would defeat Houston either. The truth is, LeBron is coming to a team who might mortgage some of their future away for Kawhi Leonard, but the smart option is to wait it out and see what they do in free agency. The Lakers aren't likely to win this year or maybe even next year, but that is what building is all about and LeBron seems invested in building. The question is, can he be a mentor to these young guys who have no idea what they are in store for, or will he stunt the growth of players who are still developing? That is the biggest question of the day for the Lakers and in turn, the entire NBA. With all of these free agent deals so far, the Warriors are still the kings of the league and have to be the favorites to win. If they stay healthy and focused, a threepeat is in order, but there are other teams to keep an eye out for this season. They just likely won't win anything. YET.



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